Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reasons Not to be Catholic

Former Protestants who are now Catholics all thought that Catholics worshiped Mary and that the Catholics were idolaters. In short, former Protestants always thought of the Catholic Church all the same things that Protestant apologists cite as reasons not to be Catholic.

But former Catholics who are now Protestants never thought that sola scriptura was not found in Scripture and ipso facto impossible. They never thought that man could not establish his own Church aside from Christ. They never thought about theology to be frank. In short, they never thought of the Protestant community any of the things which Catholic apologists cite as reasons not to be Protestant.

Protestants & the Bible

Protestants know the bible more than Catholics. But why is this? Do they read the bible more than Catholics? Yea, I think so. But that's not why they know it more. How many Protestants have read the bible all the way through or any more than just a few devotional passages at a time? I'd say not many. I'd wager that there are as many or nearly as many Catholics that have done the same and even if not, a small number may be twice another small number but they're both still small.

I think the place Protestants learn the Bible (I know this is true for me although I have read it cover to cover a couple times) is on Sunday morning. No, not Sunday school - I mean the worship service. Since most Protestant pastors arbitrarily choose their own message, they can (and often do) set up series of sermons. This sets up a storyline: part 1 this Sunday, part 2 the next and so on.

Human memory and comprehension, I think, (again, true for me I know; I think it's true for others) is highly contingent upon chronology because the memory has an uncanny ability to repeat in sequence. Many people can sing hundreds of songs from start to finish but maybe only a few that they could sing starting from the middle.

So when you have a series of chronological sermons on say, Joshua's conquest of Canaan, you end up with a clear picture of what happened and how. When you hear a sermon that references a portion of an OT passage as allegory to a gospel passage (not usually in chronological order), it would be pretty difficult to piece this puzzle together.

I think this is more of a reason why Protestants know the Bible better than Catholics rather than private reading. Could be wrong. Any thoughts?

Least of These

When I walk into a parish, I can usually spot the one who, out of all men present, would give the worst homily. He's often wearing a cassock.

Other Christian communities find and pay the best speakers as their pastors but priests are called (by God) to sacramental ministry and some of them don't even earn a salary. God is in the business of calling poor speakers ever since Moses. It isn't just their lack of charisma; many times the real disappointment is their inability to teach. I think people rarely absorb a thing they say. Preaching.... Catholics just aren't good at it.

But God delights in these sorts of things, He always has. If men chose the pastor, he'd always be charismatic, good looking and an excellent teacher. Often God calls "the least of these" that His glory may be manifest and not the speaker's.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of fantastic priests out there. To all of them (whether great or not), thank you for answering God's call.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Small Sins

"Small sins" seem more terrifying than big ones sometimes. Boredom worries me more than theft. Most Americans think that they needn't worry about boredom because they're so busy. But boredom doesn't consist in not being busy as one can easily be bored of that which keeps him busy. And boredom is a sin barely distinguishable from pride. The humble man is thrilled with small things, but even big things bore a prideful man.

Gluttony is that small sin which we will conquer effortlessly tomorrow but requires superhuman effort to conquer now. That is why it is so dangerous.

And I'm much less worried of how I'll react if a loved one dies than if someone cuts me off in traffic. I'm sure I won't curse God if a close relative dies, in fact I think I'll seek Him more closely. But in lesser things like stubbing my toe, my computer crashing or my wife taking too long while shopping, the last thing I do is seek God more closely.

Father, help me to be faithful in a little that I may learn to be faithful in greater things.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book Review: The Early Church by Henry Chadwick

I've had this book on my shelf for quite a while and have finally gotten around to reading it. Overall, I have a favorable impression of it but as a Catholic, some of the slant left a bad taste in my mouth and so I'll have more to say here about what I didn't like than what I did. So I hope this doesn't come off as overly critical.

With the exception of only one passage involving (what I thought to be) excessive name-dropping (or rather, introducing too many new "characters" at once), I thought the book was extremely readable. His style is accessible and lends itself both to speed reading and consumption by small chunks.

I did particularly appreciate the 18th chapter on Christian worship & art. It was as succinct and accurate of a history on the subject as I've seen and could easily be read outside the context of the book. I also appreciated his fidelity to chronology in the ante-Nicene period (after that he disregards any chronological interest like most early Church historians).

It always seems to me like most Church historians have a tendency to rush through the first 300 years (with obligatory treatments of the Gnostic controversy and persecutions under various emperors) so they can get to Arius, Nestorius and the Monophysites. There's nothing wrong with this of course, I'm just personally more interested in the first 300 years than the Christological & Trinitarian controversies of the 4th & 5th centuries.

Now, the task of any non-Catholic historian is to show how moving from point A (the apostles) to point B (the Catholic Church of the 5th century) could not have been a wholly divine movement (i.e. God didn't approve of the move as a whole). It's tricky to do this since most of the important developments during this time period are indispensable to Christianity as we know it. So the greatest weapon here is to cast doubt.

Chadwick uses doubt to his advantage on a number of occasions, most notably when the secular authorities become interested (to whatever degree) in the affairs of the Church. But this approach to me seems about as respectable as Raymond Brown's approach to biblical scholarship (that is, that the more doubt you cast on tradition, the more genuine of a scholar you are). In Brown's case though, his approach often sets him at odds with his own tradition which, whatever else you can say about Chadwick - at least his scholarship is consistent with the Anglican tradition. But this post-19th century approach fails on a number of levels (with biblical scholarship and with Church history). Scholars may cast doubt on Christian developments as long as they wish, but unless we concede that God is only able to accomplish His earthly work in a tidy way (i.e. that God is unable to accomplish His work if men make the circumstances messy), then whatever objections might arise from these doubts will have little persuasive power over clear thinkers.

He never makes the mistake of arguing from silence, but the silence in his argument is noticeable on more than one occasion. Example: early in the book, he calls the notion that Peter was in Rome for 25 years "3rd century legend" but offers no reason why we should accept 20th century scholarship from one who is not in communion with Peter's successor over "3rd century legend" from one who was. I'll take the latter any day of the week. Yet acceptance of the traditional date for Peter's arrival in Rome (circa 42 AD) by no means necessitates the belief that he was continuously in Rome for 25 years. We know he was in Jerusalem in 49 or 50 AD for the council as attested in Acts 15 for starters.

I find it decidedly ironic (and even comical) that he has absolutely nothing positive to say of any pope until Leo (that pope in which Protestant historians abandon all attempts to downplay Petrine primacy). I have to believe that at least one of those 44 bishops had at least some admirable feat or trait. Chadwick takes every opportunity to embellish any perceived negative trait (such as Victor's apparent rash nature). In fact, by a long shot he says more positive things of the heretic Pelagius than of all popes (including Leo) combined and this is not an exaggeration. Chadwick spends several pages defending what he sees as true Pelagianism (as opposed to the caricature which Augustine and the Catholic Church condemned.

But in the end, if it weren't in his job description to cast doubt on the Petrine primacy then I suppose he'd be a Catholic historian and not an Anglican one. He is skilled in his subtlety and comes off far more objective than many historians that I've read and I'm sure it would be more than enough to fool most. But when you quote Augustine (regarding the Pelagian controversy) saying "causa finita est", a student of Church history will have easy guesswork as to what else you ommitted from that famous line and for what reasons.

For these reasons then, (and probably some others that don't come to mind), I would recommend this book to those who already have a good grasp on Church history, but not for those looking for an introduction. The style and readability certainly lends itself to the latter but he makes a good number of subtle errors and unfair embellishments that a beginner in Church history would be unlikely to know.

And in case you're wondering, the line should read "roma locuta est; causa finita est."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Would Christ Have Lived Forever if Not Crucified?

This is an excerpt from my comment on Taylor Marshall's discussion of Mary's painless delivery of Christ.

We know that death, the ultimate penalty of original sin, was suffered by Christ and traditionally Mary as well.

Objection 1: Christ was murdered, He did not die a "natural" death and would not have.

Reply to Objection: The way in which "Natural death" causes men to die is no less physical than that way in which Christ died. In the case of the latter, motion causes vital bodily functions to cease and in the case of the former, motion which is necessary to sustain vital bodily functions ceases.

Merry Christmas

Posting has been slow for the combined reasons of business (family, work etc...) and work on a new collaborative project which I suspect will be of high interest to those of you who read this blog. Look for an announcement after the new year.

And so to all my readers and their families, Merry Christmas.

BTW, did you know there are exactly four things required to be in any given orthodox icon of the nativity? Notice, they are all present in this one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

O Magnum Mysterium

O Magnum Mysterium; the impassible God took on mortal flesh. This, perhaps the most defining of Catholic dogmas, the appropriate centrality of the Incarnation has affected my theological orientation more than any other new thing for me in becoming a member of that same Church which He who was incarnated founded.

The incarnation, yes that event in which God was made present should not be far in our minds from the Church –that body in which the Kingdom of heaven is made present.

And if ever we think we have understood it, then we can rest assured we have missed it altogether. We would be further from truth still were we ever to grow comfortable with it. Yes, I’d say every time you think of the Incarnation it ought to startle and offend you. Every time. O Magnum Mysterium.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Critical Liturgical Catechesis

Jeff Pinyan has a new blog called Critical Mass on liturgical catechesis for the Roman Rite which promises to be a great read. Be sure to check it out and subscribe. (Wish some clergy I know would).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christ Mass

Next time I hear a Protestant complain about taking "Christ" out of Christmas I'm going to object "well you took mass out it".

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Presbyterian Crosses the Tiber

I've just found the blog of Dr. Jonathan Deane, another former PCA/OPC Presbyterian who was confirmed in September 2008. This post describes why he became Catholic. Be sure to give him a hearty welcome to the Church.

Community and the Individual

I loathe the fact that "progressive" Catholics have stained the word "community" to the point where I'm not even sure how to use it in a positive light anymore.

Recently at a conference on the Eucharist sponsored by "Renew International", the nun literally spent more time on Christ's presence in the community of believers than in the Blessed Sacrament. I have no problem with mentioning the mystical presence of Christ in the community but I do when it competes with or marginalizes the real presence in the Eucharist. And no wonder then, that the songs were all about us as "the community" and not about Christ. But more disturbing is the fact that none of this was due to carelessness but a reflection of false theology which is still lingering on from the 70s & 80s because when I criticized the music selection, she responded that it was proper to sing about ourselves because Christ is present in us.

Yesterday at a retreat preparing for my son's first reconciliation (and subsequently communion), the video shown on reconciliation I swear used the word "community" more times than "confession", "reconciliation" and "sin" combined. The video went so far as to marginalize private ordinary confession and explicitly recommend the communal reconciliation services.

In fact, the real offense of any sin, it seemed, was that it weakened the integrity of the community rather than committing a personal offense against God. In this way, the individual's offense is against the community even with private sins (which may be true to some degree) but not against himself. It was never demonstrated that sin is that which is contrary to reason and a private sin always offends my relationship with God (in addition to the community). I think this convolution of sin and its consequence makes a perfect springboard for dissenting views of various kind. What is lacking here is clear expression that an individual is fully culpable in God's eyes for his sins (as opposed to being just another a weak link in a community of weak links).

I certainly don't say any of this to the exclusion of some level of communal interaction between God and man (as opposed to strictly individual-God interaction). That is, the corporate aspect of salvation so clearly present in Israel and subsequently the Church is clearly appropriate to reflect on but not at the expense of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the individual's personal culpability for his or her sins.

So I'm getting a better idea of where the dissenters are coming from and perhaps this will lead to more fruitful dialogue. It is unfortunate that the infection of this weak theology has lingered for so long even as the tide is clearly turning.

St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for the Church that clear theology regarding the individual and sin triumph over the misleading focus which leads to dissent. Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Truest Thing I've Read in a While

Dmitry Chernikov (whose blog I recently discovered and happy to have done so) has an excellent post exposing egalitarianism for the "cheap envy" it depends on.
If the standard of living of today’s average worker were to reach the level of today’s average millionaire, and the standard of living of today’s average millionaire were to reach the level of today’s average billionaire, then this apparently happy development would not, oddly enough, cause the egalitarians to shut up. They’ll continue to cry bloody murder even if, as Rothbard puts it, the workers “only enjoy one yacht apiece while capitalists enjoy five or six.”
I would highly recommend this quick read.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New L&L Video

Over the top? Of course. L&L VIII video is online for your viewing pleasure.

Patristic Carnival XVIII

Phil has Patristic Carnival XVIII up. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On This Day in History

Three years ago, I walked into an RCIA class room at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC - still a head strong, independent, sola scriptura Protestant (not that all Protestants are head strong but I was). I always knew that Mary would stand immovable between me and the Catholic Church but I was curious. Still, as much as I hated Mariology, there was some part of me that knew deep down that some aspect of Mariology contained just what I lacked.

I am under no delusion that it was by chance that my first RCIA session fell on the feast of the Immaculate Conception - the most deplorable Catholic dogma of them all. Either God has a peculiar sense of humor or the Devil isn't thinking things through real well. Yes this frog was tossed into a pot of water already boiling.

The deacon gave the homily that evening (mass preceding Inquiry as it was) and he trumpeted the suspicious Catholic apology "we don't worship Mary, we honor her". Oh brother. What did I get myself into?

An hour later, I received some less than convincing reasons to be at ease with Mary and a certain inquirer also present that night later confided in me that he was sure he'd never see me again. No, that very night I bought a rosary for a few bucks on the internet although it would be another year before I was comfortable using it. In fact, I used that same cheap rosary this morning.

Immaculate mother Mary, pray for me and for all separated brethren. May we receive you as our mother that Christ may truly be our Lord.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sacred Music Colloquim

Wish my music director would go to this:

Catholic Blog Networking

From John Mallon:
John Mallon is trying to assemble an email list of Blogs in the English speaking world, especially in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. He is currently working as Contributing Editor for Inside the Vatican magazine, doing media relations for Human Life International, and assisting at the Envoy Institute in a promotional capacity. He has two degrees in theology and frequently has items of interest to Catholic Bloggers worldwide. With 25 years of experience in the Catholic Press, he has found that major secular outlets are often closed to these messages. If you have or know of Blogs that would be interested in receiving press releases and other pertinent materials for your Blogs, he would very much appreciate getting a mailing list of these blogs for this purpose. This is not spam. Anyone not wishing to receive these materials will be removed from the list immediately upon request. Catholic Blogs are absolutely critical for spreading credible information on the Church. This mailing list could serve as a News Agency supplying news and other information to Catholic Blogs.

It is absolutely maddening trying to harvest emails off of Blogs, where people won't post their emails. He is only interested in people who want to receive these messages, not bothering anyone.

For more on John Mallon please visit his website at:

Please let me know if you can help.

Thanks & God bless you,

John Mallon



Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Catholic Assurance of Salvation

"Can a Catholic Enjoy Assurance of Salvation?" - so we asked at our November session of Liturgy & Lager led by Andrew Preslar. Andrew argued (convincingly) that we indeed can. I would recommend his summary of the question (as linked to above) and Dr. Judisch's longer post on the same topic here.

But Andrew's conclusions caused some controversy that evening and one of the attendants protested (and I don't mean subtly). The Catholic's knee jerk reaction (especially those of us who are more prone to polemics) is quite understandable given the history of this issue. But it seems to me that for a Catholic to outright reject "assurance" of any kind is a false dilemma if we take a moment to clear away the fog.

The fallacy is saying that one of the following two extremes must be true:

1. A Christian may have "certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error" (to include the absolute confidence that one would never fall from grace in the same way that 2 and 2 will never equal 5).

2. A Christian must be absolutely agnostic regarding his or her salvation (e.g. Mother Theresa, nearing the end of her earthly life, would be no more certain that she was heaven-bound than hell-bound).

The Catholic knee jerk reaction would amount to this false dilemma it seems. Yet if there are degrees in between those two extremes, then we must say that assurance of some kind is permissible and even expected of a Catholic.

Catholic theology, like good Protestant theology, allows and yes... demands some assurance of salvation not as part of a spiritual self evaluation but as part of proper soteriology. Our salvation is given freely therefore our assurance is in Him who gives. What uncertainty exists is not a denial of the sacramental efficacy (the sacraments effect not affect) but the perpetual humility of the Christian who depends fully on God's grace.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Praise Music in Church

Jeffrey Tucker at The New Liturgical Movement has a nice editorial on praise music in church and why it doesn't belong.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calvinist Converts to Catholicism

Poor Calvin must be spinning in his grave since so many of his followers were predestined to become Catholic again. Stop over at Jennifer's blog "On the Road to Rome" and give her a hearty welcome. H/T Catholic Journeyman.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unity and the Body According to Cyprian

Not long ago a Protestant friend of mine expressed some displeasure at the fact that Catholics excluded Protestants from the altar of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. To no avail, I tried to explain that the Eucharist is a sign of unity and full communion and further that to receive in disbelief would be a lie and to receive in a state of mortal sin would be to profane the Body while scandalizing the community.

The ubiquitous sign of unity for the Church is the Blessed Sacrament. The Body of Christ is one just as the Church is one and only those who share in the life of the Church (Christ’s life) may receive His Body. Thus, when commenting on the Lord’s Prayer St. Cyprian says “For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours.” And further:
"Give us this day our daily bread." And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation.
A sacrament effects what it signifies. Moreover, that one thing signifies another does not preclude it from effecting that thing or even from being that thing. Like a good Catholic, Cyprian affirms that it may be understood “both spiritually and literally”.
And according as we say, "Our Father," because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it "our bread," because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body.
Notice it is for those who are in union with His Body and not those “animated by His Soul though in broken bodily communion”. That is, there is one Body of Christ – the Church and she is one as His Body is one. If she can be divided, so too can the Body of Christ be divided.
And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ's body
Here, the Eucharist is salvific and mortal sin separates the believer from the Body of Christ. Those separated from the Body may not receive for this reason.
And therefore we ask that our bread— that is, Christ— may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body.
Cyprian is doubtlessly a student of Ignatius of Antioch who nearly 150 years earlier had said the same things:
To the Ephesians: Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. that ye obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality,
To the Philadelphians: Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God.
But if there is further confusion regarding where this Body is on earth, Cyprian has already made his views on the primacy of Peter clear which I reviewed here. Again in this same document he says:
But the Lord prayed and besought not for Himself— for why should He who was guiltless pray on His own behalf?— but for our sins, as He Himself declared, when He said to Peter, "Behold, Satan has desired that he might sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.”
Notice how he links this passage to the unity of the true Church:
And subsequently He beseeches the Father for all, saying, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as You, Father, art in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us." The Lord's loving-kindness, no less than His mercy, is great in respect of our salvation, in that, not content to redeem us with His blood, He in addition also prayed for us. Behold now what was the desire of His petition, that like as the Father and Son are one, so also we should abide in absolute unity; so that from this it may be understood how greatly he sins who divides unity and peace, since for this same thing even the Lord besought, desirous doubtless that His people should thus be saved and live in peace, since He knew that discord cannot come into the kingdom of God.
The last line is a loud clap of thunder in today’s pluralistic world. It silences the noise of various opinions regarding the Church. There is no discord in the kingdom of God. There is no discord in the Church. The Church is one and she is holy. Whatever discord appears among the Catholic Church – it is only discord insofar as those perpetuating it have separated themselves from the unity of the body.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cyprian on The Eucharistic Sacrifice

In the following passage St. Cyprian contrasts the sacrifice of the ancient mass with the pagan sacrifices:
That religious voice has named the name of Christ, in whom it has once confessed that it believed; those illustrious hands, which had only been accustomed to divine works, have resisted the sacrilegious sacrifices; those lips, sanctified by heavenly food after the body and blood of the Lord, have rejected the profane contacts and the leavings of the idols. - Treatise 3.1
In terms of competing theories on the Eucharist, as far as Cyprian goes, this passage alone rules out cccasionalism/receptionism and certainly memorialism. It is clear that Cyprian could say along with Justin Martyr "not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these". He cannot be speaking of a merely invisible reception of the Body & Blood because he says the Body and Blood have touched lips.

Here again, the sacrificial nature of the Christian liturgy is made explicit by contrasting it with the pagan rites which the oppressors had intended the Christians to forsake their faith by. But if that wasn't enough, he speaks perhaps more clearly in Epistle 62 while demanding that wine be used instead of water as was the illicit practice of some:
Whence it appears that the blood of Christ is not offered if there be no wine in the cup, nor the Lord's sacrifice celebrated with a legitimate consecration unless our oblation and sacrifice respond to His passion.
And to Cyprian, this is far from a matter of liturgical preference - this is part of the apostolic deposit of faith. Whereas some think that certain 16th century innovations are what Paul had in mind when he demanded no alteration to the gospel delivered, Cyprian seems to hold the sacrificial Eucharistic cult (and even its particulars such as which elements are to be consecrated) as certain non-negotiable orthopraxy if not the very sine qua non of the gospel.
Since, then, neither the apostle himself nor an angel from heaven can preach or teach any otherwise than Christ has once taught and His apostles have announced, I wonder very much whence has originated this practice, that, contrary to evangelical and apostolical discipline, water is offered in some places in the Lord's cup, which water by itself cannot express the blood of Christ.
Having already demonstrated that Cyprian would clearly reject memorialism, we need only remind ourselves that the sacraments effect what they signify in case anyone would try the tired route of Schaff and other Protestant historians who want only to read their novel theology into the fathers. They say Cyprian means only to say that the wine "expresses the blood of Christ", using this loophole to wholly ignore the remaining passages which clearly prove otherwise. The wine offered is the sign of the Blood and he is arguing that water cannot be an effective sign and therefore cannot be used. This argument certainly does not amount to a reduction of the sacrament to a mere symbol. This is made clearer when we remind ourselves that he routinely refers to the Eucharistic species as the Body or the Blood (not bread or wine) as he does in this moving rhetoric regarding martyrdom:
But how can we shed our blood for Christ, who blush to drink the blood of Christ?
He speaks of bread or wine when it is necessary to speak of the proper elements to be used in the consecration and nothing less should be expected. We Catholics do so until this day. Even after the consecration, we may still, on occasion, refer the the Body and Blood as bread and wine but we do so then only figuratively. See here for more on rejecting memorialism in Cyprian.

In the following passage, he affirms the Bodily Presence in the Eucharist and the need for the Lapsed to be forgiven by a priest before receiving the sacrament:
All these warnings being scorned and contemned,— before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime, before their conscience has been purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, violence is done to His body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord.
Which demonstrates that for early Christians, absolution of sins was a proper faculty of the Church (which is already clear from earlier authors) but more specifically - by the hand of a priest (confession to a priest can be found even more explicitly in Treatise 3.28-29). Of course, Cyprian would not have allowed a Lapsed Catholic to merely confess to a priest and then receive the Blessed Sacrament - but this is a discussion for another time.

Furthermore, far from memorialism or occasionalism, it is with their "hand and mouth" that they defile the Body and Blood. That is, the Body of Christ cannot be profaned with the unworthy reception of a symbol.

Cyprian goes on to tell of a story of a baby girl who had unwittingly received food offered to idols under the care of a wet nurse. When her mother took her to receive, she refused the Sacrament and upon the deacon's persistence, she did receive and vomited the Body up because "In a profane body and mouth the Eucharist could not remain". This story is not hearsay, Cyprian himself was an eyewitness. He continues (take note of what the third century Bishop of Carthage thinks is happening during the sacred liturgy):
This much about an infant, which was not yet of an age to speak of the crime committed by others in respect of herself. But the woman who in advanced life and of more mature age secretly crept in among us when we were sacrificing, received not food, but a sword for herself.

And when one, who himself was defiled, dared with the rest to receive secretly a part of the sacrifice celebrated by the priest; he could not eat nor handle the holy of the Lord, but found in his hands when opened that he had a cinder.
Although sacrificial language regarding the sacred liturgy is by no means introduced here by Cyprian (i.e. it can be found in the earlier fathers), Cyprian makes this central tenant of the Christian faith more explicit than any of his predecessors. It is no surprise then that while the fathers before him had already affirmed the Church's Christ-given right to absolve sins, it is Cyprian who clarifies this charism especially in connection with the priestly vocation of the Catholic clergy. And for Cyprian, nothing is more central here than the Eucharist.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cyprian on the Possibility of a Divided Church

In a recent post, Protestant blogger Kenny Pearce and I have been going back and forth regarding the nature of Church (as in invisible or visible). Kenny has used an image of a severed hand which is still potentially part of the body because it is animated by the soul (not dependent on physical connectivity) which flies in the face of the obvious starting point of the bodily metaphor. Paul compared the Church to a body which is a unified, natural substance per common sense and not a hacked up carcass animated by an invisible soul.

Catholic Christianity teaches that the soul is the form of the body. This is why Protestant attempts to get around the obvious short falls of the Reformation's "invisible Church" do not work. The body is not just a visible manifestation of the soul which is accidentally unified (whereby if it were disconnected it could conceivably remain a body although divided). Instead, the soul and the body are two principles of one being (a person).

To read some more from Cyprian:
Nor let any deceive themselves by a futile interpretation, in respect of the Lord having said, "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last words, and lay aside the former ones, remembering part, and craftily suppressing part: as they themselves are separated from the Church, so they cut off the substance of one section.

For she [charity] will ever be in the kingdom, she will endure for ever in the unity of a brotherhood linked to herself. Discord cannot attain to the kingdom of heaven; to the rewards of Christ

They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God's Church.

Now here's where it gets really good:

God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.
Again, we have on the one hand the Protestant idea of a visible manifestation (the collective separated bodies of all Christian ecclesial communities) of an invisible Church and on the other, we have the Catholic insistence upon a Church which is unified in form and matter. St. Cyprian clearly speaks in the way the Catholic Church does now - as do the other fathers. It would be anachronistic to ask their opinion of the Reformation but supremely naive to assume that the Reformation was substantially different than what was occurring in the early Church already. That is, Martin Luther wasn't the first heretic and his heresy has not yet lasted the longest.

The concept of "visible manifestations of an invisible Church" presents us with a perfect soul having a mutilated body. St. Cyprian clearly does not believe that unity can be severed. In fact he insists that the health of a being depends on it maintaining an essential unitive condition. After all, Christ did say that the separated branches are discarded in the fire (not remain animated by Jesus although detached).

Cyprian follows a natural philosophy here. We don't have to stretch our imaginations to understand what he's getting at. If you cut off a body part, how many bodies do you now have? You have one not two (and the one is not divided). If you cut a foot from a living body you have a living body and a dead foot. Similarly, if a heretic breaks from the Church, you do not have a divided Church. You have one Church and a dead heresy.

There is only one existing source of unity. That is the life of Christ through His Church which He promised to build on Peter. Now, those outside the formal confines of the Catholic Church (especially those born into a given heresy) are not completely detached from the life of Christ as long as they have a valid baptism (and most Protestants do). Similarly the Orthodox obviously enjoy a much greater participation in the life of the Church because of their apostolicity and their retention of the sacraments. That being said, the fullness of the Church, the unique Body of Christ, that one being which has indefectible unity - who has remained and shall remain throughout all heresies - she is the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Army of Martyrs on Facebook

I now have a Blog Networks page for Army of Martyrs. If you're on Facebook, do me a favor and confirm me as the author. (If I'm not one of your friends, add me while you're at it).

Cyprian on Unity

In 251 AD, following the election of St. Cornelius to the See of Peter as Bishop of Rome, Novatian (a Roman priest) had himself elected bishop (and therefore the second anti-pope following Hippolytus) by several Italian bishops supported by five Roman priests. The fact that this schism so rocked the entire Catholic Church (East & West) speaks highly of the preeminence of the See of Peter during this time.

Cyprian of Carthage writes in response:
Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it— the garment of the Lord— the Church of Christ? He Himself in His Gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, "And there shall be one flock and one shepherd." And does any one believe that in one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks?
For Cyprian, there is a unique and indefectible unity which belongs to the Bride of Christ. As Christ prophesied "there will be one flock and one shepherd" not "I hope there will be one flock and one shepherd" and not "I am the One Shepherd of many flocks". But in whom/what does this unity subside?
There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter, saying, "I say unto you, that you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, "Feed nay sheep." And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, "As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained; " yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.
As for Cyprian's later views, that is a topic for another discussion. For now, at least we have the assurance that the early Church saw no possibility of a divided Body of Christ. The Body of Christ inevitably subsists in undivided - bodily form (not fractured, not invisible). If there is no bodily form, it cannot be the body of Christ. A divided "body" is not a body at all but two bodies and Christ is not polygamous - He has but one Bride and one Body.

St. Cyprian knew the head of that body was the See on which Christ promised to build His Church (body) and therefore the sine qua non of Christian unity.

Divorce for Any Reason Whatsoever?

Back when I was my own personal magisterium, I read the exception clause regarding divorce like most other Protestants (although few pay it any mind when the rubber hits the road). And even up to a few months ago, when I was asked about "biblical exceptions" for divorce by a Protestant elder, I didn't really have a good answer.

I would recommend Dave Armstrong's post on translation bias and the followup dialogue with an evangelical preacher. In short, there is no clause for "adultery" as an acceptable reason to divorce your wife. I knew the Church taught this, but didn't really understand why/how this is true given what the text seemed to be saying.

Saying that you can't divorce unless your wife is unfaithful is like saying you can't murder unless someone really pisses you off. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Christianity - Relationship not Religion?

If I hear that line one more time I'm going to puke. If we say Christianity isn't a religion, then all we've done is re-define the word "religion". In any meaningful sense, yes Christianity is a religion. The statement can't be true unless it's meaningless and nothing can be true without meaning. Therefore Christianity is a religion.

This popular sentimentality is most often found spewing from those who think that Jesus' primary purpose was to teach Jews how to be Platonists (and when they didn't get it, He went and taught the Gentiles).

I called my boss out on it this morning perhaps a bit too hastily. She said something like "we don't like to feel like we're religious here - we think religion is a bad thing" and I responded "that's funny because Christianity is a religion".

Sentimentalism is lack of emotional sobriety. It's not just distasteful and embarrassing, it is a sin.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When Ideology Trumps Reason

Recently, a commenter named Steven remarked:

"Jesus teaches that the church is made up of all the believers in Him."

Which is funny since Jesus said no such thing. Jesus did mention the word "Church" twice during His earthly life:
Matthew 16:18 - And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Matthew 18:17 - If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Now I'm under no pretense that I can interpret these verses without bias but doggonit...He just doesn't seem to be advancing the doctrine of invisible church here.

So how does our friend Steven start representing the peculiar doctrine of his denomination as if it were actually the teachings of Christ?

It's like where I work, our income is higher than last years income and is just above our budget year to date, but I have heard upper management reporting that our income is down because of the economy. It's not that they haven't seen the figures - they have; it's that they've already decided what the figures say before they saw them. Same with our pal Steven. He's been taught that the church is invisible and so regardless of what Jesus actually says in Scripture, Steven will recall Christ's teachings as such. Steven is not alone.

Patristic Carnival XVII

Patristic Carnival XVII is up at Heart, Mind, Soul & Strength.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Liturgy And Lager Blog

Earlier this year, some friends and I started a group of (Catholic) guys who meet once a month to discuss theological & liturgical issues. We call this group Liturgy & Lager and by clicking on that link you can see our new blog. If you live in the Charlotte area, you might be interested in it. Otherwise, probably not, just need to help my google rankings out ok.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Festival of Hope

Catholic author Barry Michaels is hosting a "Festival of Hope" on his blog throughout November with several book give-aways. Looks pretty interesting.

Obama Mocks the Bible

The narrator's comments are a bit off and don't really speak to the fundamental reason why this typical liberal inability to understand Scripture or Christianity is wrong. Deuteronomy isn't what gave us the 10 commandments it only repeated them but anyhow...

Part of the problem is that Obama has been raised in Protestant Christianity which is, without mincing words, an offshoot of true-Christian doctrine.. i.e. it is heretical. He is treating Christianity here as if it were a 'religion of the book' as Islam is for example and authentic Christianity certainly is not a 'religion of the book'.

There is a professor at UNC Charlotte who opens his course on Paul with the line "Paul affected Christianity more than Jesus did" and the same sort of straw man attack is happening. I am willing to bet that this professors' primary exposure to Christianity is a Protestant one in which entire Bible is read through Pauline goggles instead of reading Paul along with the rest of the Scripture. His reasons for thinking that Paul has such enormous influence on Christianity is that his idea of Christianity is skewed by a sect (and one that represents a small historic minority). So this is one problem I see here, identifying "Protestantism" with true Christianity (not to say Protestants aren't Christian) when if he understood authentic Christian doctrine, his ideas wouldn't even get off the ground.

But in case those silly ideas do get off the ground, they are easily shot down. Obama is making the same fundamental error as I made when I was an uneducated teenager and the same one Martin Sheen arrogantly makes in this clip:

Neither Obama or Sheen understand that the OT Law was written for a specific people at a specific time. They make several errors. First they think that we either have to follow all the laws exactly until this day or none. Second, they think that mentioning a practice that occurs without explicitly condemning it is the same as condoning it. (Because the Scriptures mandate things to do with slaves such as treat them humanely etc... without condemning slavery necessarily means that Scripture condones it in their minds...) Third, they assume that since arbitration is required, it must be up to the individual instead of the Church. The voice of the Church is left out of the equation in both of these videos.

Neither of them understand the difference between apodictic and didactic laws. Apodictic laws are those which are necessarily true and thus true for all ages (do not commit adultery for example) and thus correspond to the natural law. Didactic laws are intended to instruct and are not always necessary under all circumstances (do not mix types of threads for example). Now if Martin Sheen isn't clever enough to figure out that (do not sleep with a man as with a woman) falls under the category of Apodictic law and is a heinous violation of natural law, then the Church has an unambiguous voice to tell him so. And if Obama isn't so spiritually keen to know that slavery is against Christian morality and that stoning your children is not part of God's plan for parents, then... again, the Church is here to tell him so.

To Undermine Christian Morality

First let me heartily recommend the excellent post (as they usually are) from Brian Cross entitled "On Imitations and the Gospel". He stole a bit of my hot air and turned it into thunder (what I mean is that I had this post in the oven before I read his and he said it much better than I could have anyway).

Bishop Jugis (Charlotte) and Bishop Burbidge (Raleigh) issued a joint letter to North Carolina Catholics on the voting issue (it can be read here) and this was read throughout both dioceses at the weekend masses. The letter is short and to the point - "the intentional destruction of innocent human life is an intrinsic evil that can never be supported" - and I applaud our bishops for their courage in leadership during times when moral clarity is a dangerous thing to advertise.

Though I'm afraid our bishops across the country are quickly finding themselves first in a world where speaking out is becoming increasingly necessary and soon in a world where merely speaking out will not be enough. Whatever they said in that letter is 100% irrelevant in the mind of the average NC Catholic because the message is trivialized by the News & Herald (delivered weekly to all Catholics in the diocese) which ran a five part series comparing the candidates on the various issues. The first one, on abortion, is so ambiguous that you come out feeling like McCain is only a marginally superior candidate on life issues. No need to even read the other four (Immigration, Iraq War, Education & Environment) to see what sort of slant they have. I'll say it again, the time is quickly approaching where bishops will need to do more than write letters.

A few months ago, I sat at lunch discussing morality with an OPC friend when a co-worker joined in. I was talking about the movie "Evan Almighty" and lamenting it's awful message when the co-worker remarked "Well I guess some message is better than no message at all". Negative. It is better to have a story without a moral than to have an immoral story.

The message of "Evan Almighty" was that God was angry with us for living in suburbia and driving SUVs and because of that, He sent a second flood. This is a bad message because it is anti-Christian (it replaces and undermines the real Christian message). There is certainly nothing inherently Christian about suburbia or SUVs and certainly nothing unChristian about environmental stewardship but there is something decidedly unChristian about parading environmental concerns in lieu of much graver issues.

So the bishops can write such a letter, and again I applaud them for doing so, but I'm afraid their message is easily drowned out in a sea of competing voices (from friends, family, Hollywood and even our diocesan newspaper) which promotes a message that directly undermines theirs.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Traditional Catholics - we're a dying breed - or maybe Vatican II baby boomers are a dying breed. I guess it depends how you want to interpret various conflicting studies. Mass attendance is declining and 1 in 10 Americans is a former Catholic or something like that. But Catholics per capita are holding steady while Protestants are declining. Is faithful Catholicism declining faster, slower or at the same rate of faithful Protestantism? It's the younger clergy who are likely to be traditional (or so I read) and the other day I read that most young Catholics are Socialists. Whatever.

The point I'm clumsily trying to express is that trends are often difficult to discern from headlines. I'm finding myself too often caught up in trying to analyze the trends in this regard - are things getting better or worse? Lately I'm thinking they might just be staying the same.

This verse is quoted far too seldom if you ask me :
Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. - Ecclesiastes 7:10
"Trads" especially seem caught up in this myth that a generation ago, the Catholic Church was mostly populated with saints. What does it really mean to be a "traditionalist" anyhow?

Don't think I'm not sympathetic to traditionalist concerns (and as far as the label goes, I fit the bill to a T I guess). I just got back from the only MEF in Charlotte (that's "Mass in the Extraordinary Form" for you non-trads). My other "trad" credentials include starting a Gregorian schola (and seeing it kicked out of my parish by a spirit of Vatican 2 feminist music director), being rejected on various proposals to my pastor including A) to chant the propers of the mass in lieu of our horrid music program just once per month and B) inviting a willing priest to say the MEF in the chapel (again only once a month) and organizing a "Theology on Tap" knock-off to whine about these things (I say this tongue in cheek). If my wife would have it (and always when I was a bachelor), I'd even attend the Ukranian Catholic Divine Liturgy just to get my fix of raw beauty, reverence and the sacred. Hell... I'm a subscriber to The Crescat and if that don't make you a "trad", I don't know what does. (Also in good fun, Kat is a good friend of mine).

So I guess I'm a "trad" if we need to categorize ourselves. Now I don't have a problem with labels or categories and in fact, I categorize anyone who does as an idiot. And I don't have many negative things to say about the "trad" movement. I just want to remind myself in public (and readers can take it or leave it) that the MEF was the only mass available when that army of hippies so grossly and intentionally used Vatican II as a WMD against Catholic tradition. Traditionalism can't be the only answer to our woes. In fact, it can't even be the substantial portion of our answer.

Our problems are spiritual and spiritual problems aren't any different in substance now than they were 40 years ago. We're still at war against the same forces (spiritual not physical) and still have the same failures (sin not too much vernacular). Tim Jones discussed some of the peculiarities of our problem recently in his post on the "Tidal Wave of Technology". It's worth reading (though some seem to have missed his point). And I'm in total agreement with him, things are different now than they have been for various reasons - I mean the quality of our sin has remained though in some regard the quantity has increased. You probably need to read his post before you'll get what I'm saying here or how this ties in with what I'm trying to say. Now you know why I'm an amatuer blogger and not a professional writer.

So in a nutshell, some things are different these days - but essentially, we have the same problems as we always did - me and you (and those blasted liberals... I mean ya know.. especially those blasted liberals). The Church has always been full of sin, sinners, bad liturgy, hippies and feminists... just more hippies and feminists lately and new ways of sinning and particularly bad liturgy. A real "trad" is one who looks forward more than he looks back. Tradition (with a capital T) is always looking forward, is ever contemporary and is never whining.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Celebrating the Reformation?

This time of year - "Reformation Day"... Is this something to be celebrated? If the Reformers were right, then we should lament their dismal failure. That is, they intended to reform the doctrine of the Church and the Church did not reform so they left. In terms of a true "reformation", it cannot be seen as anything but failure. On the other hand, if the Catholic Church is right, then we should lament this heresy which leaves millions in schism and false doctrine until this day.

Either way, it is not an event to celebrate. On this day, perhaps we should pray for Christian unity instead of celebrating schism.

New Convert's Blog

Aubrey is just 17 and is converting to the Catholic Church down here in the Bible belt. Check out her blog. H/T TiberJumper.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Living Apostolic Church

Continuing my thoughts on conversion - I wondered what to do about this simultaneously terrifying and romantic idea that the apostolic Church still exists. I've written about this before, but I think it was mostly on other blogs.

Before becoming Catholic, I was often jealous of those old Hebrews who waited for blooms on rods to know for sure what God really wanted. I was even jealous of the apostles because they could roll dice to eliminate uncertainty and there was a special privilege the young nation of Israel had when God sent prophets to her. All the faithful Jews knew this prophet was of God and anything he said (even if I didn't like it) must be obeyed.

Now there is safety in that and something to be envied, but there's also danger. The danger is that we don't know what that prophet is going to say, or which rod will bloom or what number will turn up on that die. It could end up as my second choice - or conceivably, it could end up something I utterly hate. I'm not so afraid of hearing God's voice as I am of hearing and finding something that my sin nature refuses to heed. That's scary.

Still I think, on some level, that this is precisely the type of world I'd want to live in. So once I was confronted with the idea that this apostolic Church is not dead but very much alive, I was excited. It was a shock to begin with - and certainly frightening. After all, I don't know what this successor of Peter is going to start promulgating as Christian dogma or what the bishops may end up professing. There is some real danger in that.

Well, I don't think God ever meant us to be completely safe in the world or in the Church. Christianity is a supremely dangerous thing - it threatens to dominate the one thing that is apparently yours - your life. There is no version of Christianity more dangerous than Catholicism. If the Baptists are right - eh... ok or if the Anglicans are right - that's all fine, just love Jesus and everything will be alright. But if Catholics are right - then "loving Jesus" entails obeying His Church (especially the bishop of Rome) and we don't know what His Church will say! That's scary but it's also liberating. There's nothing scary about any other ecclesial community and it's partly for this reason I think Catholicism is true.

It's one thing to trust God's Word in the Bible, it's another thing altogether to trust God's Word when you believe that it might keep talking! It's even another thing when you expect it to keep doing so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Analyzing My Reasons for Conversion

Despite my strong convictions that I made the right decision in converting to the Catholic Church based on the evidence available, I have to at least entertain the possibility that I was deceived.

Considering that the evidence seems so overwhelmingly pro-Catholic to me, I know of only two conceivable worlds in which I am wrong. World 1. A world in which I'm not smart enough to properly calculate all the evidence and World 2. A world in which I am smart enough but concupiscence has grossly skewed my ability to reason.

I might not be the smartest guy in the world...but I think I'm at least bright enough to reject world 1 without much discussion and I'll leave the reader to agree or disagree.

World 2 deserves some more serious thought however. To speak of this world in simpler terms, I would be guilty here of rationalization. So I should entertain the possibility that I've rationalized my way into the Catholic Church. This might be true, and if it were, I think it would be hard for me to detect it. But what I know about rationalization seems to render this world unlikely.

I think most of us would agree that it is possible to self-detect rationalization (probably from first hand experience). I think rationalization necessarily accompanies short term benefit at the expense of long term good. It feeds the lust at the expense of natural reason. It aims at temporal means and ignores the eternal.

None of these things seem to be true of my initial conversion. I didn't stand to gain anything temporally or short term - in fact, I had to go through a year of RCIA & early Sunday mass. So this doesn't seem like the type of thing I'd rationalize my way into.

But how about now? Maybe I converted for the right reasons but have rationalized myself into staying Catholic having been exposed to more contrary evidence. I suppose I would stand to gain some temporal benefits from remaining Catholic - I'd save a lot of face. It would be humiliating to revert to Protestantism or to change to another religion altogether. (In this way, I can appreciate the difficulty Protestant clergy have when facing the evidence of the Catholic Church which is a hundred fold what I'd have to endure if I wanted to de-convert). It also becomes more difficult (for prideful reasons) to convert to anything else for any reason as you get older. For an old Protestant to convert to Catholicism (or vice versa) it entails admitting that you've been wrong about the most important things for a long time. I'd also keep access to a far superior liturgy (although depending on my personal brand of Protestantism, I'd be able to continue attending at will as long as I didn't receive).

But let's look at the other side of the option - not just what I'd temporarily gain from remaining Catholic but what I'd temporarily gain from reverting to Protestantism. I would gain some personal "freedom" and certainly some intellectual "freedom". I'd get to go back to much better music on Sunday morning. I'd have a much larger friends network who were of the same religious persuasion (I mean in my local area). Pastoral ministry would be an option and a teaching ministry would be much easier.

I think there are more temporal reasons to revert than to remain Catholic. So it doesn't seem to me like I've rationalized my way in or that I'm rationalizing myself to stay inspite of good reasons to leave. But who knows....this post could be part of that rationalization. Just thinking out loud here.

Why Catholic Music Stinks

Per Albert J. Nock on the New Liturgical Movement.
"This is why we must restore tradition!" many will admonish. But this is a mere distraction, really. Not even tradition can eradicate bad taste and mismanaged priorities.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Atheist Arguments

The Deeps of Time has an interesting post entitled Atheism & Thinking which is worth reading. The atheists fire back in the combox to refute his claims but they didn't get anything right. Their reasoning reminds me of Protestant rebuttals to Catholic arguments - I can see where they're coming from... just not sure why they'd stay there.

And it would take far too long to refute because they've made such fundamental errors in their thinking a long time ago - that I'm not even going to waste my time. For me, I think I'm leaning more towards dealing only with Theistic leaning Agnostics or Protestants who are almost ready to be Catholic. In short, they have to do their homework first.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Always Knew This Day Would Come

A profound hat tip to Tim Jones for inspiring me to take up beer brewing once again. There's a good reason why I never threw out my old equipment - and this day was that reason.

Yes, outside of Holy Matrimony and the Beatific Vision I'm not sure there is anything which makes a man feel so much like a real man - like he is fulfilling his destiny as brewing beer.

This one is called "Ram's Head Weizenbock" which, as the name suggests, is a cross between a German wheat beer and a bock beer.... in other words... liquid gold. Should be pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If the Community Has Unity - It's in Tradition

NLM has a brilliant piece on what happens when people try to revive the liturgy in liberal parishes. How I wish I didn't know first hand what they're talking about. This is what it's all about - none of the issues with music have anything to do with style preference. It has everything to do with what is appropriate for the mass. Great line:
This sort of thing makes musicians crazy because it is a setting guaranteed to yield shabby liturgy and community chaos. It is the worst possible thing to happen to a parish music program, and not because the community shouldn't have a voice. If the community has a point of unity, it concerns the faith itself and the tradition; otherwise, in terms of issues of taste and preference, there is no such thing as a community: there are only individuals with a multiplicity of conflicting desires.
Here's the link. And here's Father Z's comments.

Vote Pro Life

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More on Bad Catholic Music

I ran into a friend who told me I was the topic of some conversation he had with a nun earlier today.. (This can't be good). About a month ago, I went with my former RCIA sponsor to a nearby parish to hear a seminar on the Eucharist sponsored by Renew International. At the conclusion, the nun asked people to fill out evaluation forms and I complied.

So the nun said to my friend "someone really criticized the music and said that the lyrics were all about me and we etc... I sure wish I knew who that guy was". My friend guessed that it was me and he was certainly right. So she left him with a rebuttal along the lines of "Jesus lives in us as does the Holy Spirit and therefore it is proper to sing about me and we". I kid you not.

Let me give you a little backdrop. Several times during the seminar, she played a predictably bad 70s "Catholic" song and wanted everyone to sing along. Like routine, about 60% of those present (including me) stared back as if we were being lectured in chemistry class while the other 40% mouthed words and maybe one or two sang out (noticeably off key). You Catholics know what I'm talking about... the same sad scene at most every mass when Catholics try to sing these awful excuses for songs. It's like watching a crowd of people trying to ice skate for the first time... and they never get any better.

And the thing is, she recognized the problem. She quoted that quasi famous line from "Why Catholics Can't Sing" - "Four episcopalian women make more noise than a whole Catholic congregation" or something like that. And she lamented this.

So I gave my two cents in the response - I said you expect us to sing along... well some of us don't want to sing about ourselves to the tune of the Brady Bunch. And in fact, some of us find it sacrilegious. Some of us don't particularly care for music that sounds like it was written by a middle aged feminist or some hippie priest from the 70s. In short, some of us would rather have no music at all than to be subjected to the garbage you're trying to force on us.

Naturally, I was polite in my reply and didn't say it like I'm saying it here. But how can someone be so clueless as to defend such a ridiculous position? I understand that she might actually like that music. She has a severely undeveloped palette. No big deal. Some people prefer Hot Pockets to fine dining. I have no problem with that. Pity yes; problem no.

And she misunderstood my problem I think... my problem isn't with the word "I" or "we" or even the occasional use of those words in a song. That's fine. I'm talking about the fundamental orientation of the song - it needs to be vertical and not horizontal. The emotion driven songs we're typically subjected to by their nature lean towards the horizontal instead of the vertical though. This is why Vatican II reiterated the fact that Gregorian chant is supremely appropriate for mass - it is intrinsically vertical music. You can't chant "Here I am Lord" to the solemn tone Salve Regina - the lyrics instantly get exposed for how ridiculous they are.

There is a serious problem with me-focused music in many American parishes and it needs to be addressed. I just don't know if this needed reform can happen until the baby boomers fade away.

Spiritual Music

After mass on Saturday, a woman thanked our schola group and said the music was "very spiritual". It was funny seeing so many heads turn (I mean turn around, we were in the back where musicians should be) and you could just see the looks on their faces "what the hell is that? it sounds like ... like church music!"

These days, hearing "spiritual music" in church is like seeing beauty in an art gallery. Nevermind the fact that you ought to find those things there, we simply don't. There is such a thing as "spiritual music" - music which is spiritual in nature not just accidentally.

Contrary to the juvenile opinions of many ecclesial-music directors around the world, you can't baptize Metallica by adding churchly lyrics, bring it in Sunday morning and expect it to work. Don't get excited contemporary fans, you can't baptize Matchbox 20 either. Certain music inherently belongs in certain places. Hint: "Here I Am Lord" is not "spiritual music" and it doesn't belong at church. For the mass, what belongs is Gregorian chant & traditional polyphony. Period.

Now I know many of the old Protestant hymns were pub songs and this might evoke some protest (and I have been strongly on that end of the protest before). But for starters, the pub songs had certain qualities which made them ideal for what Protestants intended to do with their music. The melodies were simple and easy to follow, catchy & memorable and the timing was straightforward. This is ideal for congregational music - but that's not what the Catholic Church ever intended her songs to be; at least not primarily. (Incidentally I'm usually delighted to hear an old Protestant hymn being played at mass because at least then I know the song won't be about me and what I bring to the table - not to mention that it will be well written for the congregation... it's funny, Catholics sing loudest and most confident when its a Protestant tune).

There are no musical intervals which are inherently evil and that's not what I'm saying but there is such a thing as objective difference in musical style and performance intent. That's what we need to be aware of.

Incidentally, this "spiritual music" I'm talking about happens to be far more beautiful than the 70s sitcom music we're accustomed to at church. One can only wonder why there is such animosity towards revival of traditional Catholic music. When it finally happens, we can stop making fun of ourselves for being bad singers and go back to leading the way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Patristic Carnival XVI

Phil Snider has Patristic Carnival XVI up and running.


Greed… These days, it’s a moral buzzword with which the liberals and conservative can find common ground to complain about and Capitalists don’t seem to be anymore happy about greed than Marxists after-all (or at least they’re doing a good job of pretending).

So we talk about the “greed on Wall St” ad nauseum and if I can be so bold as to use another cliché that will make me puke if I hear one more time – we also find some satisfaction in touting the current discontent on “Main St”. Well, we all agree that greed is a bad thing, but for a moment, instead of being so angry at Wall St for doing their job, why not reflect on ourselves and ask are we doing ours? Perhaps it isn’t the “greed on Wall St” that should concern us but the “gluttony on Main St”.

So whose sin caused the financial crisis? “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish”.

No one likes to talk about gluttony anymore because it’s awfully hard to get around that sin. Our Protestant brothers are reluctant to even consider it a sin at all since they’ve removed the books with the strongest references to it from the bible.

I don’t remember the last time I was hungry. Now I don’t mean the last time I was in lack of food – I mean the last time my stomach growled! We’ve become so gluttonous that we think among our “inalienable rights” as Americans is the right to never be discomforted. In fact, most of our prayers can be reduced to a childish petition for God to prevent us from being inconvenienced in any way.

Yes, I think gluttony is more our problem than greed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Voter's Guide for Nominal Catholics

Priceless. Agnus Daily is back with this great post. H/T Curt Jester.

Seizing the Moment

One thing I'm trying to get better at is seizing the moment in conversation. In attempts to tame the tongue I'm finding that I'm more often regretful of having remained silent than of having said the wrong thing - at least when it comes to religion.

About 5 years ago I was in Los Angeles and heard an evangelical speaker who challenged me with some good, basic advice for life - "pay attention". It was a "seize the moment" kind of challenge and I looked forward to my opportunity to do so. The very next day I was in Hollywood with my uncle I found myself sitting at a table with a few people who were talking religion (and big surprise... not favorably). It never even occurred to me that this was a prime chance to say something until several days later. That's called cowardice.

I'm trying to be better about it these days. It's funny, I talk with Christians all the time and the topic they're terrified of most is their religion. So when they mention something about religion (especially in a negative sense) I know I have about 3 seconds to respond before they change the subject. Seems that way anyhow.

The other day I was talking with some co-workers about the Eucharist and the fact that Catholics can neither receive at Protestant communities nor can Protestants receive at the Catholic Church. A woman remarked disapprovingly that "these churches have so many rules. God never meant for us to have so many rules" and I could sense her getting ready to change the subject into something stupid so I jumped in and explained that to receive the Eucharist together demands full communion. Probably not the best response... in hindsight maybe I should have said "do not rape, do not murder, do not steal... these are just rules... God never meant us to have all these rules"..

The point I'm trying to get across is, if you have an opportunity, don't pass it up. These little opportunities can yield big results.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

This Guy is a Major Thorn in The Side for Liberals


Dr. Liccione has another great post - an insightful commentary on the current state of affairs called "The Lies We Love". It is well worth the read.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hell, Deism & the Mark of the Beast

With such a title, one would think this post must aim pretty high. Not so, just a few quick thoughts (and most of them dealing with what is below rather than what is above). While considering the eternal and constant creation of God, this thought occurred to me:

While an atheist will be right about the world when Hell freezes over, I think the deist will be right as soon as Hell is his world (I mean as soon as he enters Hell). That is, it seems like God must totally remove Himself from the world of Hell (whatever that world is) in a way quite different than ours. At this moment, we do not have the Beatific Vision and we are not walking and worshiping Him as Adam did nor even as Moses did. There is some separation but nothing like the separation which will be true of Hell.

I wonder if Hell is a world where deism really is true. God sets it in motion and leaves the inhabitants to themselves. Such a world, even if it started as paradise, would end up a Lake of Fire in no time at all. Humans "left to their own devices" will become eternally enslaved to sin which is the absence of Godliness. Sin only destroys and leads to death - therefore eternal death.

Now what does this have to do with the "Mark of the Beast"? Oh, everything! This is my 666th post. Eek.. (Seriously it is, but it's entirely coincidental).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Financial Crisis

Independent Bible Church to the Catholic Church

Many of you probably already know Andrew Preslar if not from comments here then from other Catholic blogs. He has resurrected his old blog Apology of Miscellanies and has a brief explanation of why he, the son of an Independent Bible preacher, became Catholic via the OPC and a Traditional Anglican order. Check it out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

10,000 BC The Movie

A story about a tribe of white people who have interracially married with some Asians? although some are fully caucasian.. They all have dreadlocks and speak English (though each of them makes up their own accent). They live on snow covered mountains (but mostly run around in loin cloths) at the base of which are tropical rain forests with carnivorous ostriches and this country borders Egypt. Don't worry, some of the Africans speak perfect English because the hero's father taught them 20 years ago. In other words: lamest movie ever made.


I've become convinced that real genius lies in the ability to talk about things on levels which they do not belong. Without any exception, the smartest people I've known always talk in ways that are ridiculously easy to understand. Someone who thinks they're smart uses a lot of big words to describe something that requires much less effort but someone who really is smart uses language so clear that he cannot confuse you no matter how difficult the subject and no matter how little capacity you have to understand. Anyone can do rocket science, but only a genius can make rocket science obvious.

Yet genius, I think, lies not just in taking the incredibly complex ideas which belong nestled in lofty rhetoric and lowering them in order to speak at the level which normally befits dumb ideas, but also in taking dumb ideas and talking about them with lofty rhetoric.

Most all of the heretics were geniuses. Who but a genius could take a dumb idea like "invisible church" (for example) and speak of it as if it belonged amongst the scholarly? Yes, only a genius could argue himself into such stupidity.

This tells me that I am far from being a genius. Yes I think I can engage others on a lofty level and do fairly well I think... and if you catch me around certain company I'll be having the dumbest conversations about the dumbest things... but it takes a genius to talk about smart things with dumb people or about dumb things with smart people.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Heretical Doctrines Do Not Develop

There is something to be said of the uniqueness of the Catholic Church in light of doctrinal development and the fact that it couldn't really be any other way.

The necessity of Doctrinal Development (hereafter known as DD) is made evident in the fact that errors cannot be built upon just as one cannot build a second story when the first already lay on a faulty foundation. When the heretics appear to progress in their doctrine, (and they often call themselves "progressive"), they are not in fact developing their doctrine; they are trading old errors for new ones. No heretical or erroneous doctrine can be seen to have developed in an organically successive manner. True DD is manifest when tradition is maintained, not abandoned and since those in error do not retain even their doctrines of yesterday (much less their starting point), they cannot be true developments.

Why then, since DD has occurred for 2,000 years (actually much longer), is the Catholic Church (if we say she alone is privy to it) not demonstrably superior to the alternatives? Or put another way, since Catholic "truth" has developed over thousands of years, how is it that an undeveloped error may seem even remotely reasonable while laid at its side? I answer in two ways:

1. The errors only have the flavor of novelty & smell as if they originate with man. In fact, they have been around from the beginning (Cain's argument is identical with a modern liberal's) and all errors originate with the father of lies in one way or another and are therefore (usually) quite clever. In summary, the errors (at least the most deceptive), while having such appearance, are at their root neither new nor find their origin in worldliness but in other-worldliness... "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood". It was not a man made lie that deceived Eve and the lie has long lost the right to be called novel.

2. There is only one truth while there are an infinite number of errors; ergo "we believe in one holy Catholic & apostolic Church". No outside group has maintained a particular error while developing it along its organic path. As soon as their error is exposed and defeated, they adopt another. Therefore, "as a dog returns to his vomit" the enemies will repeat errors which the truth has long since put asunder. So it seems the truth (the Church) is under attack from all angles all the time. This is true... all the more reason to recognize that she is the true Church. The errors have only their animosity towards truth as their common ground.

Error cannot be developed for long; only what is fully true may progress indefinitely. The truth will never run into a brick wall nor argue itself into a circle. The truth sails straight forward on an endless sea while error sails in circles close to the shore or makes a sharp left or right and immediately runs aground.

Error by its nature cannot develop (at least not indefinitely). All who have fallen victim to errors stop the development of their beliefs before they accomplish the irreparable damage they aim for. Calvin has to stop short of calling us robots, Luther has to stop short of calling post-baptismal sin meaningless, and modern liberals need to stop short of saying murder of any kind is a matter of free choice.

Reformers in general try to stop short of solo scriptura but if you challenge them on Tradition they will revert to that error. This also illustrates my point about the arbitrary switching between errors. If I told a Reformed Protestant "you don't believe in Church authority, you believe in Scripture alone" he'd say "I believe in sola Scriptura not solo Scriptura" but if I had said to the same Protestant "you deny the clear Tradition of the sacrificial nature of Christian worship" he'd say "we don't find that in the New Testament". Do you see how he trades one error for another depending on which suits his immediate need the best? Bryan Cross does.

But the point is that Catholics didn't need to stop short of calling Mary the "mother of God" nor did we need to stop short of saying she was immaculately conceived or that contraception is intrinsically evil. Right or wrong, there is a uniqueness about the Catholic insistence on development. If wrong, how is it that this doctrinal system has continuosly developed for so long without destroying itself?

Yes, there is something to be said of the uniqueness of the Catholic Church in this regard and in a host of others.

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Miracles

Bryan Cross recently asked whether stigmatas were from God or not. In an effort to avoid the meat behind Mr. Cross' question, some Protestants claimed (without sources) that per Google, Protestants also receive stigmatas. Others pointed out (again without sources) that some Catholics in Louisiana get chicken pee miracles and other voodoo related stuff. Mmm Hmm...

Still others insisted that Mr. Cross was barking up the wrong tree altogether since the Eastern Orthodox also have incorruptibles. Ok. Here's the issue - (and I had been thinking about posting something along these lines for some time now but Mr. Cross beat me to the punch) - Catholics have different sort of miracles than Protestants and probably even different from EOs - so what does that mean?

I am assuming a traditional belief in the miraculous for this discussion; i.e. they do happen - they are not all fabrications of the wishful pious. But how are the Catholic miracles fundamentally different? That they involve Mary? The Body of Christ?

It would be hard for us to envision a Protestant having a miraculous experience with the virgin Mary or with the accidents of the Eucharistic species appearing as flesh since they don't believe in those. If they had those experiences, they wouldn't likely remain Protestant for long! It would be like an atheist experience any miracle at all.

But the uniqueness of Catholic miracles is their objectivity and lingering presence. Eastern Orthodox may have this as well, and they do; but Eastern Orthodox are properly "Church" according to Rome and they are Christian in a much fuller sense than Protestants are so we would expect them to experience the "right" kind of miracles as well. Yet Catholic miracles still exceed those of the Eastern Orthodox and by no small margin. Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe etc... these are all Catholic and any one of them by itself is probably greater in terms of objectivity, visibility and lingering presence than all non-Catholic miracles combined.

There are at least two popes who are incorruptible that I know of and held on public display in Italy to this day as saints are often found this way. When they dug up St. Bernadette's body in 1933(?) it was found perfectly intact and remains in the abbey where she died until this day.

We needn't go on, the point is sufficiently made. These miracles must be pious forgeries, the work of a demon or the work of God. I see no other alternative.

So while this was not always the case, indeed in my early days as a Catholic I myself was skeptical of uniquely Catholic miracles, I have grown quick to dismiss theories which relegate the miraculous to the disposition of the witness.

Since the Catholic Church is the most visible and the most objective and the most populous; it is only fitting that her miracles should also be the most visible, objective and popular. Since Protestant miracles are largely invisible and non-falsifiable, it could be said that one's miraculous experience tends to mirror his or her own ecclesiology. (If that is true then why don't the Reformed have visible, authoritative miracles since that's what they claim to believe regarding the Church?)

Yet this is not a concession that the miraculous may indeed be relegated to the disposition of the witness unless we are to assume that there is no way to distinguish objectively between miracles or types of miracles. I.E., it may be that the true miracles which are experienced in this world are objectively representative of the true ecclesiology rather than me receiving miracles custom tailored to my own ecclesiology.

If miracles objectively happen then they must be objective themselves. If they are objective, then we do not experience miracles based on our ecclesiology (I'm speaking as the human race). We experience them as they really are. Then I would sooner believe that those whose ecclesiology is false do not experience miracles at all than that various ecclesiological beliefs experience custom miracles lest their ecclesiology be injured challenged or refuted.

Now I am not saying that God does not interact with non-Catholics nor that He does not perform supernatural acts in their lives. I would insist that all the sorts of (valid) miracles which the non-Catholic will experience, the Catholic may also experience. I do not know of any exclusively Protestant miracles except ones which I don't really believe are miracles. The Protestant may say the same thing of us Catholics regarding Guadalupe etc.. and he would be quite within reason ... so long as Guadalupe turns out to be false. But as for the incorruptible popes on display... well for that to be false it needs to be a forgery. These are the sort of objective miracles which I think mean something significant.